Monday, June 23, 2014

The Next Round of Excommunications Part 2

Well it's happened.

Today the verdict was in. Kate Kelly, leader of Ordain Women has been excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Her crime isn't what she thinks. Her crime is that she thought it out loud. She thought it out loud and people listened. They listened because she said out loud the very thing they were thinking and were too afraid to say. It gave them courage to say it too, to claim it and stand by it and know they are not alone.

And the more she said what she thought, the more people heard it and joined in, not because the message was new to them. But because the message was the thing they had believed deep down themselves.

Throughout history there have been those who have dared to say their thoughts out loud. Joan of Arc claimed that God told her to lead an army to free France. She was burned at the stake. Martin Luther nailed up a list of things that he found wrong with the Catholic Church. He was imprisoned. Martin Luther King stood up and said that segregation was wrong and asked for peaceful protests. He was assassinated. The suffragettes, demanded equality. They were slammed into prisons and force fed through tubes jammed down their throats. Malala Yousafzai continues to say that girls deserve an education even after she was shot in the head by the taliban.

Kate Kelly is in a smaller sphere. Her influence is only felt by a tiny portion of people on this earth. Her punishment is not as severe as others, unless you are a Mormon and believe that excommunication locks you out of heaven and bans you from your family.

But in spite of her small sphere, she did impact it.

Although the church would deny it, it's interesting to note, that no woman gave a prayer in general conference until after OW was formed and became known. Nor was the priesthood conference available for viewing until after OW was formed. Coincidence? Interestingly the very people that would claim that they don't believe in coincidence would probably say that it is.

It alarms me that having a voice in the church is dangerous.

This terrifies me. Especially when you read my previous post on this subject.

Yet if you asked most devout members they would see nothing wrong with this because Christ leads the church and the apostles follow Christ so they would never, ever, do any wrong.

And consequently you have members all over the world, willing to do anything and believe anything that these fifteen men tell them.

I am not willing to put my trust in anyone but the Lord. Not to this extent anyway. Especially after reading about what previous apostles and prophets have said. Now if you want scary bed time reading there is plenty.

There are folks in the church that have checked their compassion and Christian charity at the door and are cheering this. They believe it means that she will just go away now.

Because that's what the church wants. They want women to shut up and make some food and some babies and tell teenage girls that their bodies are so shameful that it causes teenage boys and men to think about rape.

I pray that Kate will find a new church family, one that will accept and love her and be grateful for her talents and won't just throw her away.

And at least there are thousands of Mormons who have not abandoned her.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Bandwagon Jump: The Next Round of Excommunications

 My grandmother and Waino's wife, Maria, and their children
Olavi (the older one) and my father Waino (Alfred).
I wish I had a picture of my grandfather.

My grandfather, Waino Junus, was a promising young Finnish professor at the University of Leningrad in the 1930's. He had a wife and two sons. In 1937 he was arrested by the Soviet government, imprisoned and executed days later. I am not clear on what the charges were, but it was related somehow to the work he was doing and things he said and wrote. Plus he was a professor and had access to youthful minds and as we all know, the youth are notorious for wanting to change things. My grandmother was sent north to a place like Siberia. She was only allowed to bring one child, so she left my father behind with his paternal grandmother. The news of what happened to my grandfather didn't reach his family until decades later. As far as they knew, he was in prison all that time.

The Soviet government was one of the worst in history. Children were taught to report on their parents. Care had to be taken with written and verbal opinions. The government controlled the jobs you did, where you lived, what you read, and forbade religious worship.

Fast forward to the United States 2014. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has brought charges of apostasy to three private citizens and members of the church.

John Dehlin, has expressed doubt over the claims of the church, and more importantly, has acted as a reporter, journalist and interviewer, by giving a voice to many, many Mormons through his podcasts. John has interviewed church historians, LDS leaders, critics, past Mormons, people struggling with the faith, Mormon apologists, psychologists, professors, and the faithful. He has also come out in support of women and gays, two groups that have suffered inequalities in the church.

Kate Kelly is the founder and leader of Ordain Women, an organization that sees a future where women within the church can hold the priesthood. It is a priesthood that is offered to any LDS man over the age of 12 but denied to all women, no matter their level of activity.

Alan Rock Waterman has a blog where he shares his opinion about discrepencies he sees between  the church today and the scriptures.

Kate has been asked by the church to dismantle OW. The church has no jurisdiction over OW. They have asked Kate to take away a venue where women can have a voice.

Rock has also been asked to take down his blog even though the church has asked members to share their beliefs and write in blogs. Translation - share the church's beliefs and only write what they deem appropriate.

And I'm not sure, but I think that John has also been asked many times to take down his podcasts. His podcasts give a voice to those people that might not get the opportunity to hear otherwise.

I belong to a church that tries to control what people say. If we have questions, we are to keep them to ourselves or we may discuss them with our bishop, a man who has no more understanding of church doctrine or the gospel than any other member. Openly discussing concerns, doubts or questions is discouraged. We say questions are welcome, but they generally are the surface ones, the ones that can be explained away easily, and we must accept the church answers. To question, criticize or say the emperor has no clothes will lead to accusations of apostasy. We claim that the leaders are not perfect, and then slap those who point out imperfections. Private get togethers to discuss church doctrine, or study scriptures is discouraged as well.

Now I'm not saying that what these three individuals are facing is the exact same thing as what my grandfather faced and I'm sure they would each agree that their trials do not match the horror that happened to my family. My grandfather had no choice about where he lived. Mormons can choose to leave the church. No one is going to execute them. They can continue to live full and happy lives.

But to a devout Mormon like Kate, excommunication is like spiritual death. According to the teachings you have all your saving ordinances taken away and your eternal family ties are severed. If you believe this, it's devastating and spiritually abusive.

Excommunicated members are still welcomed at church although they can't be full participants. And I suspect with the charge of apostasy, they will not be as welcomed as someone who has sinned in other ways, because having an opinion that doesn't match the church's makes you a danger to other members. You might talk to them.

If they choose to go to their trials, John and Rock will be facing their peers. Kate will be facing a group of men who will not be understanding. She is a threat to their power. Women have no peers in a "court of love" since no woman has ever been a judge in one. Women are not allowed. Kate will be facing them alone. As it is, Kate is in unable to go to her trial, so she will have no representation.

From what I understand "courts of love" are much like what my grandfather faced. It has already been decided. The trial is just a formality. It is more than likely that they will be executed - sorry, excommunicated.

I mourn. I grew up knowing my grandfather was a hero. I grew up hating book burning. I grew up believing that knowledge and truth was something to be shared. John and Rock have done nothing but do that. Demanding that their opinions and work be destroyed is akin to book burning.

In addition, the church has a "Strengthening the Church Members Committee". If that doesn't sound like a government spying and controlling people, I don't know what is. In fact, church wide we're encouraged to report on suspicious behavior to our bishops and Relief Society presidents, so that we can help those people who are going astray. Of course it's not said precisely in that way. We're to go to our leaders about concerns and for the most part it is done in spirit of love, such as if someone needs food, is moving, or needs employment. But it can quickly expand to something else. Many a person has reported on another and made accusations. In fact I've faced false accusations without knowing who the accuser was.

So I say, thank you to John, Kate and Rock for having integrity.

And I am saddened that the church that I once loved and believed in would do this and say it's of God.

It makes it so easy to justify things when you can claim that God said so and I believe THAT would be heretical.

For further reading:

*Waino Junus in Wikepedia (Finnish language)
Two Activists in Mormon Church Threatened with Excommunication
Trib Talk
Church Responds to Questions About Disciplinary Action
John Dehlin's Mormon Stories
Ordain Women
Alan Rock Waterman's Pure Mormonism

* if anyone understands Finnish I would love to know more about him. Everything I've found is in Finnish.

Blogs about this subject   
(This is by no means comprehensive. I know there's more, but this is just a quick look from posts I found today. Anyone who wants to link their blog to this post, just let me know. I will happily add you.)

Will We Be Silenced Again?
Feminist Mormon Housewives (has several blogposts about this)
The Problem with Niceness: My Excommunication from the Mormon Church - Margaret Merrill Toscano
Mormon Truth: Stranger Than Fiction

Monday, June 2, 2014

Book Review: Chocolate Chips and Charity - Linda Hoffman Kimball

Chocolate Chips and Charity: Visiting Teaching in the Real World compiled by Linda Hoffman Kimball

One of the things that I have hung onto from the LDS church is visiting teaching. I may not go every week to services there, or every other week, but I do have a good companion who keeps us on track and so we do our visiting teaching every month.

For those who don't know, visiting teaching is a program in the LDS church where women are paired up and given other sisters to contact at least once a month. If they can they visit the sister in her home where they may or may not give a message that's published in the church magazine the Ensign. While there, they have a chat and see if the sister has any needs.

Sometimes visiting teaching is a blessing and sometimes it's a failure.

Like most things.

Sometimes I love visiting teaching and sometimes I don't. Most often I love it. I like getting out and spending time with other women.

Sometimes you connect with the women you visit teach, or who you are companions with, or who teach you. Sometimes you don't.

My current companion was my first visiting teacher when I moved to this town and we've been friends ever since. Good friends. Although at the time of this writing she doesn't know about my disaffection to the church. No one at church does as far as I know. And frankly I can't tell my own visiting teachers because they both have husbands in the bishopric and women tell their husbands everything. So unless I want them to know, I can't let my VT's know.

Anyway, this book is about visiting teaching.You would think it would be filled with faith filled stories - the kind we hear about at church to uplift us and encourage us to sail forth with conviction to do His work through loving our sisters. And it's got the word chocolate in the title, so it has to be good.

To be sure there is some of those feel good stories, but there are also examples of where it didn't work. Sisters who's needs were not met, or sisters who recognize where they screwed up.

I have no problem with this. I like the honesty.

What is puzzling, are the stories that simply aren't stories. They don't go anywhere one way or another.

It's like Kimball, who compiled this, simply asked her friends (some known within the church) to write something, anything about visiting teaching.

And so we get a book (a very short book - it can be read in a couple of hours), filled with the good, the bad and the indifferent.

So I'm not sure what to make of this. Perhaps that is visiting teaching. Good, bad and indifferent.